NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Infrastructure reform among 2019 NAR policy priorities

Bucks County
Warminster tax hike must be approved by court

Chester County
Landscapes3 adopted by Chester County Commissioners

Delaware County
Cost of new middle school in Clifton Heights to be evaluated

Montgomery County
Norristown budget includes $1.8M deficit

Philadelphia County
City council downsizes new protections for renters in ‘Good Cause’ bill
 

 



 

News Briefs Archive October 2, 2017

 

General News

Realtors® gear up for tax reform battle
Although the National Association of Realtors® supports reform of the tax code, it has vowed to vigorously oppose any changes to incentives for real estate. “We want to be sure the economic engine of homeownership and the transfer of real property in this country remain unfettered,” Iona Harrison, a real estate professional in Maryland, said last week in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. The so-called Big 6 tax reform outline — developed by the Trump administration, the two chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees, and the leaders of the House and Senate — is expected to attempt to simplify the code and make it more attractive for investment while cutting taxes for the middle class. NAR has for years expressed concern about tax reform proposals that eliminate most itemized deductions, particularly state and local property tax deductions, even if the mortgage interest deduction is retained and even if those cuts would be accompanied by an increase in the standard deduction. A higher standard deduction, even if nearly doubled, would sap the incentive effect of the current tax benefits of homeownership. Moreover, because the plan is also expected to repeal personal and dependency exemptions, the higher standard deduction would leave homeowners owing more tax than under the current law. Even preserving the mortgage interest deduction wouldn’t help many households if they lose the ability to itemize their deductions. On the commercial side, NAR wants to make sure 1031 like-kind exchanges are preserved, because that tax deferral mechanism is a bedrock of property sales.
Source: nar.realtor; 9/26/2017

Costello, Meehan secure $500 million for Northeast Corridor funding
U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello (R-6) and Patrick Meehan (R-7) announced their request for $500 million in funding for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) was included in the House passed Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act legislation to provide funding for the federal government. Earlier this year, Costello and Meehan wrote to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development requesting $500 million in funding for the Federal State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program, a program created in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act law to restore existing rail assets along the corridor. The Northeast Corridor Commission’s 2017 annual report estimates the state of good repair backlog amounts to an estimated $38 billion. Constituents in both Costello and Meehan’s congressional districts rely on the Northeast Corridor for daily work commutes, as well as for recreational travel. The NEC also serves as a primary connector to economic hubs up and down the East Coast, and is estimated to carry 750,000 individual trips each day.
Source: Daily Local; 9/23/2017

Alliance answers common questions about municipal inspections
In an effort to clear up misunderstandings about recent changes in state law, the Suburban Realtors® Alliance has posted to its blog answers to frequently asked questions about municipal inspection regulations and best practices. The topics include when to schedule inspections, limits on municipalities regarding escrow, the definition of "unfit for human habitation" and more. Click here to read the blog post.

Bucks County

Council Rock begins redistricting process
The difficult process of redistricting is kicking into high gear in the Council Rock School District. A redistricting committee will hold eight closed meetings beginning on Oct. 3. District officials invited parents of students from each Council Rock school to serve on the committee that will come up with a redistricting plan sometime in December or January. “The possibility exists that some students from all 10 elementary schools will be redistricted,” said Superintendent Robert Fraser. “We anticipate every school being impacted in some way.” Fraser said that having the initial meetings be public would be counterproductive, but there would be at least one public meeting to present the redistricting plan and take public comment before the board votes. The district expects the redistricting plan to go into effect next year in the secondary grades (7-12) and in the 2019-20 school year for elementary grades (K-6).
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/25/2017

Lower Bucks YMCA plans Q&A session
Lower Bucks YMCA officials are hosting a Q&A event on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. to discuss plans for a new YMCA. The event will be held at the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, 409 Hood Blvd., in the Fairless Hills section of Falls Township. YMCA officials are hoping to build a 55,000-square-foot complex next to the Oxford Valley Park Pool, plans that involve leasing about 13 of the 82 acres of county-owned park land, at the corner of Hood and South Olds boulevards. The YMCA also wants to take over operation of the pool from the county, honoring its current membership rates, according to meeting minutes from the Falls Township Planning Commission. Building on the site would require Falls supervisors to rezone the land to a community recreation district from its current designation as an open space preservation district.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/27/2017

Nockamixon proposed 2018 budget presented to supervisors
The proposed 2018 budget for Nockamixon Township was presented at the Sept. 21 Board of Supervisors meeting. The budget is now available for public inspection weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Nockamixon Township Building, 589 Lake Warren Road, Upper Black Eddy. The proposed 2018 budget will be presented for adoption at a public hearing during the regularly scheduled supervisors meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/27/2017

County seeks over $850k from casino fees
Bucks County commissioners recently approved the county’s annual request to the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority for grant money funded by slot revenue from the Bensalem-based Parx Casino. The county is seeking more than $850,000 in funding: $700,000 for the Lower Bucks Public Safety Training Facility; $125,000 to support medical and behavioral health services provided to uninsured residents at the Bucks County Health Improvement Project; and $30,170 for protection equipment used by the Bucks County Major Incident Response Team. A memorandum of understanding between Parx, Bucks and Bensalem has the casino continuing to pay the greater of either 2 percent of slot revenue or $10 million to both Bucks County and Bensalem. The contract acts as an interim bandage while the state continues crafting legislation to fix Pennsylvania’s original 2004 casino law. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the 4 percent local share assessment levied against the state’s casinos violated the state constitution because it is not uniform and affects each casino differently.
Source: The Intelligencer; 9/21/2017

Chester County 

Phoenixville commits to 100% clean energy
Phoenixville Borough is the first community in Pennsylvania to make a commitment to transition to 100 percent clean energy, according to the Sierra Club. Phoenixville Borough Council on Sept. 12 unanimously approved a measure establishing a goal of transitioning entirely to renewable sources of electricity by the year 2035. The resolution calls on the community to prioritize locally produced carbon-free, pollution-free renewable energy from sources like wind, solar and small-scale hydro, according to the Sierra Club. “Sierra Club is working with several communities in Chester County that want to set aggressive and achievable goals to transition to 100-percent clean renewable energy,” said Jim Wylie, a Sierra Club volunteer on the Ready For 100 Campaign in Chester County. “Regional collaboration, leadership and stakeholder involvement is what we need to keep us on a path to a clean energy future.”
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2017

Chester County 2020 offers Master Planner Program
If you’re interested in learning more about subdivision and land development review, register for the upcoming Chester County 2020 Master Planner Program. Courses will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Oct. 17, 24 and 31, at the West Chester University Graduate Center. To register online, visit www.cc2020.org.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 9/25/2017

Sewer rates going up 4% in Oxford
Oxford Sewer system users will see a 4 percent increase in their rates, starting with their January bills. Along with approving their 2017-18 operating budget in the amount of $1.6 million, the Sewer Authority Board approved a rate increase for the last three quarters of the year during its Sept. 20 meeting. For the sewer user who does not exceed the base rate of 5,000 gal. per quarter, the 4 percent rate will mean an increase from $75 to $78. For each 1,000 gallons used above the base rate, the fee will go from $15 to $15.60. The average residential user typically is billed for 16,000 gallons per quarter, and the corresponding bill would rise from $240 to $249.60. Last year, sewer users faced a 30 percent rate increase as the authority tried to bridge the gap between revenues and expenses, including a $27 million USDA loan that they were unable to make payment on. The authority has developed a repayment plan with the USDA and this year is looking for a much more modest increase to keep up with rising costs. They are also making efforts to sell the authority office building and a parcel of unused land on Brick Street. In addition, the potential sale of the entire sewer system is being considered.
Source: Daily Local; 9/25/2017

County commissioners endorse CWA’s decision not to sell
The Chester County commissioners have endorsed the decision made earlier this year by the Chester Water Authority not to sell its system, which serves southern Chester County, to a private water provider. At their work session meeting last week, Commissioner Michelle Kichline, chairwoman of the three-member board, read a statement supporting a vote by the authority’s board not to accept a $250 million purchase offer from Aqua America. The statement also attempted to clarify the limited role that the three commissioners play in the authority board’s deliberation process. The county commissioners also unanimously voted to reappoint two of the county’s three authority members who had voted to reject Aqua’s offer, and to appoint a new third member, who is a Chester Water Authority ratepayer. Kichline noted that the commissioners only have the power to appoint three of the nine members of the authority board to represent the interests of CWA customers who live in Chester County.
Source: Daily Local; 9/25/2017

County receives state funding to combat homelessness
Chester County has quickly put to use a new source of state funding to reduce homelessness. The money comes from the first-ever statewide grants issued by Pennsylvania’s recently expanded state housing trust fund. Officially called the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), the state housing trust fund was created in December 2010 and received its first revenue source from the Marcellus Shale Impact fee. “The housing trust fund is working exactly as we thought it would when we advocated for its creation,” said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. “These dollars that come from home sales go right back into the housing market to create more homes for others.” The Chester County Department of Community Development deployed $300,000 received earlier this year to support an expansion of the Decade to Doorways initiative, which links government entities, service providers, educators, healthcare professionals, faith communities, funders and businesses in the fight against homelessness. More than 550 people experience homelessness across the county each night. The Decade to Doorways grant will help to create a case-management team specifically designed to reduce recidivism by assisting those exiting shelter to maintain their housing.
Source: Daily Local; 9/21/2017

Delaware County

Media weighs pros and cons of new county construction
Media Borough Council is seeking input and comments from residents regarding a proposal for the construction of a building and parking facilities for the county. Council President Brian Hall characterized the project presented by Delaware County as a “conceptual plan.” The garage and offices would be on a parcel bounded by Orange, Citron, Front and Third streets. Existing buildings, as well as the juror parking lot and employee garage, would be demolished. The plan would require a need to vacate a portion of Second Street between Orange and Citron streets. “We want input from those most affected — the residents,” said Hall. “There is nothing before council at this time to act on, just what the county would like. We are seeking public comment.” Council will discuss the matter at a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers, 401 E. Gay St. The borough will notify by mail some households in the affected area, but the public is welcome to attend.
Source: Daily Times; 9/24/2017

Radnor taxpayers likely won’t see tax hike
Radnor Township Manager Robert Zienkowski’s recommended 2018 budget will not call for a tax increase. Last December the BOC had approved a $45.6 million budget for 2017 also without increasing real estate taxes. Zienkowski said the 2018 budget will be penciled in for a similar amount. He expects to present it at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Oct. 9.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 9/22/2017

Middletown pressed on pipeline issue
Homeowners in Middletown renewed their objections to the Sunoco Pipeline L.P. Mariner East 2 project by calling on the council members to schedule a town hall meeting, complete an independent quantitative risk assessment, and add their names to a petition calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to issue an immediate safety-based halt to construction. The township was paid $1.8 million for easements and rights-of-way on municipally owned property, including open space at Sleighton Park and a road 650 feet from the Glenwood Elementary School playground. The main point of concern for residents continues to be the risk of release of hazardous materials. The township recently hired Washington state-based Accufacts to determine specific emergencies that could occur as a result of a leak, including potential impact areas, and establish evacuation zones and event timing. The information will be used to develop a credible emergency plan to prepare first responders and the public for evacuation and fund the necessary infrastructure and equipment. Last week, residents of the Andover development filed suit in state Commonwealth Court seeking an injunction to halt construction in their neighborhood. This week, work crews could be seen installing barriers between the pipeline construction and nearby homes.
Source: Daily Times; 9/27/2017

Edgmont prepares to rule on country club redevelopment
The Edgmont Township Board of Supervisors may issue a ruling at its Oct. 10 meeting regarding the residential redevelopment of the former Edgmont Country Club, according to Chairman Ron Gravina. Ridgewood Real Estate Partners owns the expansive property on West Chester Pike near the township’s northern border. Ridgewood plans to construct 167 dwellings in a combination of single-family houses and detached townhomes, plus a pool and recreation facility, incorporating the golf course’s natural features and cart paths into the overall design. Concerns regarding storm water management and natural resource preservation are among the issues that were discussed during a public hearing. Edgmont supervisors meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building, 1000 Gradyville Road, Gradyville.

Springfield school board asked to list tax receipts from Morton
The Springfield Area School District Board was asked by Morton resident Michael Lee to list tax receipts from both Springfield and Morton. Specifically, he indicated some taxpayers might believe Morton residents did not pay their fair share, and having the dollar amounts read and listed on the agenda would remove that notion. Monthly, the board has an agenda item listed as “acknowledgement of receipt of tax collectors reports.” Historically it has not been board policy to include specific dollar amounts.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2017

Montgomery County

Upper Dublin to buy building in office park
Upper Dublin Township has negotiated an agreement of sale for the former Rorer pharmaceutical research facility at 520 Virginia Drive in the Fort Washington Office Park. The Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to authorize the purchase of the 7.12-acre property in an amount not to exceed $5,080,960. The township plans to “repurpose” the building as a new home for the township library, and possibly some township offices and rental space. The property is adjacent to a 27.5-acre township-owned parkland and has 307 parking spaces, a helipad, 56,120 square feet of office space, a 6,400-square-foot auditorium/theater, and 2,800-square-foot support area. A township press release says the project “requires no additional tax burden to cover the projected expense.” The township purchase of the building will take it off the property tax rolls, with a loss of $135,642 to the school district and $23,251 to the township, although any part of the building that is rented would be taxable. The township will seek input from focus groups or a task force to determine the best ways to use the building, said Township Manager Paul Leonard.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 9/25/2017

East Norriton eyes uncollected business taxes
East Norriton Finance Director David Christ reported that the township discovered a “treasure trove” of uncollected business taxes during the township audit of 2016. According to the analysis, 2016’s expansion of the township’s business privilege tax to ensure proper business reporting and tax collection resulted in a “substantial increase in annually recurring revenue.” Township Manager Robert Hart noted the importance of getting businesses to pay their taxes, adding that although the supervisors want businesses to succeed, they also want “everyone paying their share and on the same playing field.” The financial report can be found on the Finance Page of the township website at www.eastnorritontwp.org.
Source: Times Herald; 9/25/2017

Lower Merion Comprehensive Plan receives award
The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association (PA APA) announced that it has selected Lower Merion Township to receive the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan. The prize is the top award bestowed by PA APA and is presented annually to a community that advances the work of building and enriching communities. Township commissioners adopted the “Comprehensive Plan for the Preservation, Infill, and Redevelopment of Lower Merion Township” on Jan. 6, 2016, which replaced the township’s previous plan adopted in 1979. The plan provides clear direction for the community regarding future land use, transportation planning, storm water management, community facilities and housing needs. The award will be presented at the PA APA Annual Conference on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Click here to view the Lower Merion Comprehensive Plan.
Source: Main Line Times; 9/17/2017

Conshohocken Borough approves sale of Leeland Mansion
Conshohocken Borough Council approved the sale of Leeland Mansion to HOW Properties for $1,210,500. The borough owned the property since 1964 and the mansion served as the Borough Hall and police station through 2015. As a condition of sale, the stone wall around the property must remain and the façade of the mansion cannot be altered.
Source: More Than The Curve; 9/21/2017

Philadelphia

Philly's tax appeal board increases meetings, gets ready for 2018 rush
Philadelphia’s Board of Revision of Taxes, which has been criticized for only holding hearings twice a week, is meeting four times a week through at least the end of the year to decide pending assessment appeals and brace for an expected onslaught of new ones. Board chairman and retired Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene E.J. Maier said that the board’s executive director, Carla Pagan, is projecting a big increase in appeals because the assessed value of commercial property jumped 50 percent. So far, the board has received 1,145 appeals of fiscal year 2018 valuations, and it has made decisions on 124 of them. The deadline for 2018 appeals is Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The 2018 assessments of major commercial, industrial and hotel buildings resulted in $118 million in new tax revenue. Those notifications went out in April. For those who might have misplaced or not received a new assessment notification, property assessment data can be found on the city’s Office of Property Assessment website, www.property.phila.gov. Instructions on filing an appeal can be found at http://www.phila.gov/brt/appeals.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/26/2017

 


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